Travel Photography Gear Guide

Travel Photography Gear Guide

Julie Travel Gear 22 Comments

Do you want to know how we capture the images that you see on our website? Here is our photography gear guide, with links and explanations of our photography gear and accessories. At the end of this post, we offer tips and tricks on how to take better photographs while traveling.

Photography Gear Guide

The Canon 5D, Our Main Camera

The Canon 5D is my primary camera. Almost every photo on this website was taken with this camera. However, there are two versions of it.

Roughly half of the photos on this website were taken with the Canon 5D Mark III. This was my main camera from 2012 though June 2017.

In 2017, we upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark IV, the newest version of this camera. This camera comes with some new, slick features and a better processor.

Both are still available for purchase. Here are the details for both of them.

Canon 5D Mark III

The Canon 5D Mark III is a 22 MP full frame camera for the serious amateur or semi-professional photographer. It is excellent in low light situations, shoots 1080p video, and can take up to 6 photos per second. Most importantly, this camera produces large, crisp, vibrant photos.

The Canon 5D Mark III is very durable. I owned this camera since 2012 and it has been through a lot. I’ve dropped it, it’s been rained on numerous times, it survived the dry, dusty conditions in India and Africa, and it was even slimed by elephants in Africa. This camera saw daily use while we traveled around the world, in addition to the hundreds of hours it was used during other travels, sporting events, and daily life.

The only downside of this camera is its size. It is not a compact camera and it is relatively heavy. Yes, there are lighter, smaller, more travel friendly DSLR cameras available, but I love the Canon 5D. It is a little cumbersome, but for me it is worth it in order to get these photos.

Upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark IV

Tim surprised me with the Canon 5D Mark IV on our wedding anniversary. I began shooting photos with this camera in June 2017.

Is the upgrade to the Canon 5D Mark IV worth it? For me, yes. There are some very slick features that I love.

All photos can be geotagged using the built-in GPS, so I have the exact GPS coordinates for all of my photos. This seems to be an almost universal feature on cameras nowadays, so it’s not that earth shattering, but it is something the Mark III is lacking. You can get a separate GPS tagger for the camera but it makes the large camera even bulkier and heavier.

My favorite feature is the built in Wi-Fi. Now, I can transfer photos directly from the camera to my phone and then share them almost instantly on Instagram and Facebook. This is huge for me. With the Mark III, I had to wait until we were back in the hotel, transfer the photos to my computer, and then share them from there. Again, this may not be important for some people, but it makes sharing our photos and experiences on social media so much easier and convenient.

There are numerous other upgrades I love…a better, larger touch-screen LCD screen, an upgraded photo processor, and faster, more accurate focusing. The Canon 5D Mark IV is 30 MP full frame camera with the ability to shoot 4K video. The photos I get with the Mark IV are crisper and clearer than the Mark III, although it is only a mild improvement.

Currently (September 2018), there is only a $300 difference between these two cameras. In my opinion, it’s worth spending a little extra to get the Mark IV.

Here are some of my favorite photos taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Venice, Italy

Venice Italy

Bastei Bridge, Germany

Bastei Bridge

Canon 24 – 70 mm f/2.8 II USM Zoom Lens

This lens is my “walking around” lens. 99% of the photos on this website were taken with this lens. I use this lens with both the Canon 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV.

At 24 mm, it is just wide enough for landscape shots. The 70 mm gives just enough zoom to hone in on the action. This is one of the best Canon lenses you can buy and it is worth the price.

Telephoto Zoom Lens

I used the Canon 70-300mm EF f/4-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens when on safari in Africa. I have also used it photographing our kids’ sports events. This is a great telephoto lens for the price you pay.

Memory Cards

The Canon 5D Mark III and Mark IV have two slots for memory cards, a Compact Flash slot and a SD card slot. My primary card is the Lexar 1066x 128 GB Compact Flash card. I shoot in camera RAW and these files get recorded onto this compact flash card.

The Canon 5D camera allows me to simultaneously shoot a second file onto an SD card. I designate this second file as a JPEG file, which gets recorded onto a SanDisk Extreme Plus 32 GB SD card. This is my backup, just in case my main memory card fails (which I’ve never had happen).

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap

In my opinion, a good quality camera strap is a necessity. I use the Black Rapid RS-7 strap, a durable, comfortable strap that screws into the base of the camera and is worn across the body. It’s not the most fashionable accessory, but it does keep the camera safe from thieves or from accidentally dropping it.

Update:  The Black Rapid RS-7 Strap has been discontinued. The Black Rapid Classic Retro RS-4 is almost identical to what I use. The latest and greatest strap by Black Rapid is the Breathe Curve Strap, which adds another supporting strap to help keep your camera safely by your side.

Canon Intervalometer

An intervalometer is a device that plugs into the camera and controls how often and how many shots are taken. It can also work as a camera timer and it can extend your exposure time. Most people purchase an intervalometer for time-lapse photography.

Note: I rarely use this since upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark IV. The Mark IV comes with a built-in intervalometer. However, I do use this as a shutter release when shooting with long shutter speeds.

We purchased the intervalometer for time-lapse photography, but ended up primarily using it for family photos. To take our family photos, I put the camera on a tripod, attach the intervalometer, and program it to take one photo every second. As the camera takes the photos, we smile, act goofy, and take our time. There’s no setting the camera timer to get just one shot. We can pose for five minutes if we want to, while the camera clicks away. This has been invaluable in capturing the goofy family photos we love so much.

Earth Trekkers Goofy Photo

Note: When purchasing an intervalometer, make sure that it works with your camera. Not every intervalometer is compatible with every type of camera.

MeFOTO Tripod

A tripod is another invaluable camera accessory. If you want to take photos with a long exposure time, a tripod is a must. There are a lot of expensive tripod options out there. What you are paying for is a lightweight tripod that is durable and will be stable when you attach your camera to it.

We use the MeFOTO tripod, a budget-friendly tripod that we love. This tripod goes everywhere with us. It’s been around the world and Tim has carried it on numerous hikes and trips through cities. Even though this tripod has a low price compared with those on the higher end, the MeFOTO tripod has proven to be durable, lightweight, and dependable. On uneven slopes and surfaces we have not had a problem with it.

If you are looking for a cost conscious tripod that does a good job, check this one out.

PacSafe CitySafe Anti-Theft Handbag

The PacSafe CitySafe Anti-Theft bag is a handbag, not a true camera bag. But I use it as my camera bag.

This bag is just large enough to hold my camera and the accessories listed above (other than the tripod, which Tim carries in his daypack) and few other small items. This bag is worn across your shoulder. It looks like a purse, so it is more stylish than a bulky camera bag. Plus, the PacSafe features, such as an RFID slot for your wallet, Slashguard fabric, and clips to lock your bag, all work to thwart pickpocketers and thieves.

Canon Powershot GX7 Mark II

This point-and-shoot camera, the Canon Powershot GX7 Mark II, is lightweight, tiny, and shoots great video. We upgraded to this point and shoot camera in June 2018 to use for our videos.

This camera shoots 1080p full HD video and it is an excellent compact camera if you are not looking to lug around a DSLR. 90% of the time we use it to shoot video but I have used it on occasion for photography when I did not feel like carrying a big camera around town.

This 20 MP camera can shoot time lapse video, take long exposure shots, and offers awesome image quality for a camera that is so small. You can almost keep this camera in your pocket.

If you are looking for a nice, small, inexpensive camera that also shoots quality video, check this one out!

Tyler used this camera and our drone to capture our most recent videos of 2018. Check them out our Earth Trekkers YouTube channel.

DJI Phantom 4 Drone

All of our drone photos and video were taken with the DJI Phantom 4 Drone. We purchased this back in 2016 for our trip to Scotland and Ireland and have been using it whenever possible.

Having a drone is a fun hobby, especially if you are into electronics, or have a teenager in the family who is looking for something new to do (like us!).

With a drone, you can capture some very unique photos and videos of the places you visit. It’s worth it, but it is another bag to carry onto airplanes and lug around with the rest of your luggage. Plus, there are a lot of rules about where you can and cannot fly a drone, so before you travel, you need to be prepared to do some research. There have been a number of times that we were unable to use our drone because of local laws.

Storing Your Photos

So, what do you do with all of those gorgeous photos you just took? Back them up!!

Hard Drive

I keep a copy of our photos on my laptop and a back up copy on an external hard drive. We love the WD My Passport External Hard Drives. They are small, very durable, and are travel friendly. You can purchase them with 2 TB of disk space, more than enough room for years of photos.

How to Take Better Photos

I am a self-taught photographer. Everything I know about photography I learned from reading in a book and then by practicing it over and over again. If you want to be a good photographer, you have to take photos everyday.

Julie Rivenbark

Learn all of the controls on your camera and practice using them as much as possible. If you want to take truly great photos, you have to take your camera out of its automatic mode, and start shooting in aperture, shutter, or manual mode.

Here are some books that taught me how to take a better photo.

The Best of the Digital Photography Book Series

Scott Kelby teaches photography in a practical, slightly comedic sort of way. I am a big fan of his digital photography series. This book takes the best of his advice from the entire series and condenses it down into one manual.

Understanding Exposure

Whether you are a beginner or advanced photographer, this is a great resource. In this book you will learn all about exposure, one of the most important ingredients in taking your photography to the next level.


Learn more about travel photography: Capturing the Action: How to take Great Photos While Traveling


If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

Travel Photography Gear Guide

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Travel photography gear guide. The camera and accessories we use when we travel.

Comments 22

  1. Hi Julie,
    Love your photography! I pretty much practice your advice on shooting and have similar composition style (rule of thirds rules!). I know how much time it takes to find and shoot the perfect shot from different creative angles that you’re trying to find – probably most effectively done while by yourself. But with kids in tow I’m sure you’ve had to deal with their growing impatience during a trip. How do you balance photo creativity time with family “just enjoy the moment” time? One time on a trip to Europe I overheard my teenage son tell my wife, “Why does he always have to take pictures? Can’t he just enjoy the moment and soak it in?”

    1. Post
      Author

      Tyler and Kara have traveled with us for so long that waiting for me to take photos is “just the way it is.” However, there have been times where we did plan on parking ourselves in one spot so I could photograph a sunrise or sunset. I tell them ahead of time my plans so they know what to expect. I try to only take long exposure shots when it’s really worth it, so I don’t drive my kids crazy. And there are times where I do go out on my own, and Tim joins me, and we leave Tyler and Kara at the hotel (or at home). But your son is right, sometimes it’s best to put down the camera and just enjoy the moment. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi Julie,
    I already said it in my email a short while ago; thank you for putting so much effort in this website. Amazing job.
    I too carry my Nikon D300s in my hand while travelling. Just makes it easy to snap pictures as you go. My question is about your camera strap. Since it attaches to the base of the camera, I am always worried it might come loose at the attachment site. What is your experience?
    Second question; I permanently store my pictures in external hard drives. Three separate drives and try to keep them at different locations. What is your method of permanent storage?
    Thanks again for sharing your experiences.
    Regards
    Muhammad

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Muhammad. The camera strap does occasionally loosen. I’ve had a few instances where the camera came off the strap, but fortunately I had it in my hand. Even with the strap, rarely do I let it dangle at my side. I now tighten it every day or so and that keeps the camera from coming off.

      We do the same thing with our photos…store them on hard drives at multiple locations. I back them up on a hard drive while traveling, too, just in case my memory card or computer fails. As a final precaution, I back up our best photos on Smug Mug, probably overkill, but our photos our one of my favorite possessions (and we need them to run this site!).

      Cheers, Julie

      1. Julie,
        Thank you very much for your response to my questions. Nothing is an ‘overkill’ when it comes to saving family travel pictures. 🙂
        Regards
        Muhammad

  3. Hi Julie, I really enjoyed looking through your website, what an amazing trip. I have the Canon 5D Mark IV and I plan to carry it around in the PacSafe 200 CitySafe bag. My question is, did you use any bag inserts or any padded cases for the camera and lenses? If yes what did you use? The bag itself is not very padded and I’m just thinking I need for protection in the bag. Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      I just put the camera right in the center compartment of the bag and I don’t use anything extra. There isn’t much more room for anything extra, like another lens. I’ve never felt like it needed to be more durable. As long as you don’t drop it on the ground it should be fine. Cheers, Julie

  4. I’ve been looking into buying the citysafe bag, but haven’t been able to find anything about whether or not it is waterproof. Has it done a nice job of keeping your camera dry?

    1. Post
      Author

      The material of the bag is pretty thick and it stays dry inside, unless you’re out in the rain for a long period of time or you get stuck in a terrible downpour. I just used it in the rain yesterday…was outside about one hour in off and on rain showers and the inside stayed nice and dry on the inside. It’s not waterproof or water resistant but it can tolerate a fair amount of rain. Cheers, Julie

      1. Awesome! Follow up question… is the 5 liter bag big enough for a camera, or did you end up getting the 10 liter bag?

        1. Post
          Author

          I have the Citysafe CS200, the 10 L bag. My DSLR would not fit in the 5L bag. There is extra room in the 10L bag, but I use this for camera accessories, a water bottle, and odds and ends we need while traveling. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi, I love your blog and photos, especially the ones with the drone. We are headed to Edinburgh and Isle of Skye in a week. How did you know where you could use the drone?

    1. Post
      Author

      There are a few ways we know …There are apps like AirMap that will provide guidance. Some places will post signs stating that drone usage is not allowed (like at Eilean Donan Castle). Sometimes our DJI controller will warn us that we are trying to fly in a place that isn’t allowed. We do some research before we go to understand the rules and regulations of that country. It seems like the rules are always changing, so what was OK for us to do in 2016 could be different this year (but hopefully not! 🙂 ). Other than that we use common sense, don’t fly in populated areas, don’t fly near airports, don’t fly where/when we would disturb other people, etc. Cheers, Julie and Tim

    1. Post
      Author
  6. Thanks for the info! I am curious to know how you carried all this, especially with all the hiking your family does!! I own a mark ii so I am aware of how cumbersome this camera is. Did you carry your telephoto lens on all your hikes too?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Jane. On hikes, I carry the camera in my hand, believe it or not. I do use the cross-body strap just to prevent dropping it. I have found that I take many more photos if my camera is in my hand rather than in a backpack. Tim or I carry a backpack on hikes and inside is the tripod, intervalometer, and extra batteries. I really only use the 24-70 mm lens, the telephoto was only used on safari so far. When walking around cities, I put all of this inside of the PacSafe Handbag. Cheers, Julie

  7. Hi,

    The more I read your blogs the more I admired your generosity when it comes to sharing information about your travels, and for that I thank you. Most bloggers don’t do that…

    What advise you have for single travellers? It’s always difficult to get someone to take your photo or take a good shot. I’m thinking of getting a selfie stick for my next trip but am not thrilled about the idea. Any suggestions? Thank you.

    1. Post
      Author

      That’s a tricky one. I’ve been lucky to always have Tim at my side, so taking photos were easy. The selfie stick sounds like a great idea. They are very popular. In fact, I have felt like maybe we’re missing out on something because we don’t use one. You could set up a tripod with an intervalometer attached to your camera, but that can be a hassle if you are trying to get a simple photo of yourself. If you do need to ask someone to take a photo of you, pick a person who has a camera hanging around their neck. They are a better bet for taking a good quality photo of you. If that doesn’t work, compose your photo how you want it, and tell your “volunteer” to take it exactly how you have it set up. Hopefully these help! 🙂 – Julie

  8. Thanks for this. Its great to get advice like this, particularly with regards to the Tripod. I have been in the market for a little while but was having trouble making a decision as each tripod seemed to offer different benefits.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Adrian. We’ve had great luck with our MeFOTO. I know that there are more expensive and supposedly better options out there, but we love this tripod. Cheers, Julie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *